The Chile (Not Patagonia) photos are up! Check them out and remember, now they have location information on them so you can tell where they were taken.
The Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial. It was built by returning WWI soldiers in an effort to link seaside towns to each other, dedicated to the soldiers of WWI. The highway is 151 miles long, so could be done in a short amount of time. However, there is so much to see and do – we took four days!
How We Got There & Got Around
We took an early flight (6:30AM!) out of Christchurch to Melbourne (Tullamarine). This was the only flight we could’ve booked miles, so, we got up early and suffered through it. Our flight on New Zealand air wasn’t bad at all. We landed in Melbourne at 9AM. We had a few options to get to our hotel – 1. Take the Skybus to city center for $18 each; 2. Take a taxi; and 3. Take a city bus to the local metro for $4. We did option 3. We couldn’t check in to the hotel at that time, so we figured take the cheaper route, which ended up teaching us a lot about their public transportation. Melbourne’s public transportation is very easy to understand and use. We ended up getting a Myki card at the airport, which is similar to the clipper card in the bay area. We added funds to the card, and bus, subway and light-rail, we simply tagged on and off.
For the Great Ocean Road, we rented a camper car (yes, you read correctly – a car!) from Wicked Campers. Once again, we did this because it was the cheapest game in town. We are 95% sure this will be the last time we use them. The car was fine, it ran okay, but making the bed didn’t really fit right in the seats and the car’s speakers stuck out into our bed. For $35/night, for 5 nights – it worked out fine.
Where We Stayed
Along the Great Ocean Road, we used the Wicked App to find free campsites. We stayed two nights at a road side Gas Station, and three nights at National Forests campsites. We never paid for one night.
On our second night, we stayed at Hammond Road Campground. What made this a memorable experience was two things: We saw our first “wild” Kangaroos, and the people we hung out with all night. First, I had only seen Kangaroos in zoos so to see wild ones was beyond exciting. They are WAY bigger than you think they, actually have visible muscles and move incredibly quick. Once it got dark, more started appearing. It was actually quite frightening walking to the outhouse and seeing a kangaroo a few feet from you. We met a family from Western Australia: Sam, Barry and their kids. They were fantastic! They are actually traveling around Australia for a year, homeschooling their kids. I think that is awesome and inspires Steve and I. Barry made a fire and we spent the night discussing travels, politics and more with the family, a few other Australians and a couple from Germany (now living in Australia).
Our third night, we stayed at a very crowded park, Big Hill Campground. We had read that Koalas might make appearances throughout the evening, but we didn’t see any. We did see lots of King Parrots .
Our fourth night in the car was spent at Stevenson Falls Camping Reserve. It was here we met some awesome ladies from the UK: Daisy, Ellie and Katie. Daisy and Ellie left home in January and traveled throughout South East Asia until recently. Katie met up with them in Australia. They are traveling Australia for four months before moving on to New Zealand. It was great chatting with them about their experiences in SE Asia, comparing notes on our Australian travels, and complain about our Wicked Rentals. They had rented a three-person Wicked Van that had a pop-up tent on the roof. They explained the tent only fit two people, so one of the girls had to sleep in the backseat each night. They also said the horn of their car didn’t work, and that their tent cover had flown off while they were driving. We also learned some important phrases and words – I now know what it means to be “cheeky”. We enjoyed hanging with them a lot, and ended up seeing them again on our last night at the gas station.
On this night, we also experienced the “Great Ocean Mystery” as Steve and I call it. Throughout our stays, we have been leaving our garbage bag outside the car tied up. We had seen no signs of animals taking garbage, and in fact, most of our neighbors did the same. Well on this night we were reading in bed when we heard something loud shuffling around. Steve and I turned to each other thinking it was the other one and once we confirmed it wasn’t, Steve opened the door and our garbage bag was gone. He got out of the car to look for any signs of it – but there was none. It happened so quickly. The next morning, I walked around camp looking for our garbage so we could pick it up, and I couldn’t find any sign of it. So if an animal took it, they must’ve taken it very far. Some theories we discussed included a fast kangaroo, a sneaky koala, or perhaps a hungry magpie. I guess we will never know.
All of our camp spots, we were delighted to see a variety of birds and views just a short distance away. Australia has some amazing animals & sights!
The Reason We Bought Travel Insurance
We knew that during our travels, one of us was bound to get sick. Throughout our travels in South America, we were pretty careful about what we ate and drank resulting in few minimal disagreements with our stomachs. Still, it was only a matter of time before one of us got very sick. Well, it happened on our arrival in Melbourne. I highly suspect it was the breakfast that was served on the plane, because within 12 hours of eating it I was sick. Luckily, Steve slept through my vomiting and I was able to catch a few hours sleeping on the bathroom floor. By morning when it was time to pick up our camper car, I was in no condition to leave the room. Steve left me in the hotel so he could pick up the car. Nothing was staying in my stomach, even water. I felt so sick and so weak, that after vomiting I saw spots and the next thing I knew the maid was waking me up. I think I gave her quite the scare. When Steve returned with the car, we packed a vomit bag and left for the hospital. In his words, he said I was acting unusual (Note from Steve: “More unusual than normal”), probably from a severe dehydration. We made the trip to Melbourne hospital. Once there, it took us a while to find the ER and found it similar to any hospital in the US. I had a cold sweat, no fever and severe stomach pain – so I wasn’t expecting to be seen right away. To my surprise, they got me to a bed within 15 minutes. The doctor had the nurse take my blood, and start an IV to push fluids. The nurse struggled to get an IV, so I explained that every time I donate blood it’s done through my hand – sure enough it worked. All tests came out normal so they gave me two bags of fluids and some anti-nausea medicine which worked really well. The doctor explained it could be any number of things and was actually seeing an increase in stomach illnesses that day. I was happy to be released by 6PM, which allowed us to get on the road before dark. I discussed this incident with two of my friends who are Public Health professionals for the counties of San Francisco and Contra Costa, Stephanie and Kelly. From the symptoms I described and the events leading to the illness they believe I had Noro virus, which you can only confirm by testing fecal matter, which the doctor didn’t do. I asked in simple terms, “what is Noro virus?” and they said “Somebody didn’t wash their hands before preparing your food, you basically ate someone’s poop”. Seriously… so gross. Steve did a great job taking care of me during my hospital visit and after. I took about a week to fully recover which I thought was way better than the two weeks the doctor suspected it would take to heal. Besides having no appetite, the worst symptom was the stomach pain which lasted about a week.
Now we are waiting for the invoices so we can submit to our travel insurance. Should be an interesting process.
What We Did
Due to my hospital debacle, we really only had four days to enjoy the Great Ocean Road. We made the most of our four days and saw some amazing sights:
Bells Beach – An iconic Australian surfing beach. The Rip Curl Pro hosts their annual surf carnival here every Easter, attracting competitors from all over the world.
Point Addis – This beach was spectacular! We also enjoyed their culture walk.
Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie – We read about this place in our travel guide and decided it was a good place to stop for lunch. I wasn’t really eating much, but was able to get half a sandwich down, and Steve enjoyed some sliders. We walked around the chocolate shop and were in awe of their creations. They were preparing a lot of Easter candy and had some Easter Bunnies out for decoration. We would’ve loved to buy some candy. I particularly loved the idea of the meter bar, but the chocolate was a bit expensive so we skipped on buying them.
Split Point Lighthouse – We had arrived too late to do a tour of the lighthouse, but enjoyed the views of the cliffs and ocean. We were told by Barry and Sam that this lighthouse is famous because it is portrayed in children’s television show in Australia.
Memorial Arch – The arch is a tribute to this soldiers who helped construct the Great Ocean Road.
Erskine Falls – According to the visitor center, this is one of the highest waterfalls (at 30 meters) in the Otway region. We enjoyed the walk to the falls and climbing the rocks around it. There were a lot of people here, which made photo opportunity a little bit more challenging. One of the more exciting things is hearing eucalypti’s trees/branches falling throughout your hike.
Teddy’s Lookout – This lookout offered us amazing views of the ocean. It also shows where the St. George river meets the ocean. When we were there, the river didn’t quite flow to the ocean, but I imagine in Spring and early Summer, it’s a sight to see. The nearest town, Lorne, was a fun place to stop for lunch and hang in the beach!
Great Ocean Road Heritage Center – We stopped here for a short time to look at the museum. It was all about the construction of the road, including stories from individuals who built it. This is also where we saw our first Koala, sleeping outside the visitor center in a tree.
Kenneth River – All the guide books direct everyone to this spot off the highway to see lots of Koalas and Parakeets. When we went, a tour bus was there and they were feeding the birds seeds. We only saw a few koalas.
Maits Rest – We did this 20-minute walk through the rainforest. We did not see any wildlife on this hike, but saw extremely old mountain ash trees and tree ferns. We had read about the Otway Black Snail here and kept our eyes open for it. It is the only carnivorous snail in the world!
Cape Otway Light Station – This is the oldest working Lighthouse in Australia. We paid $19.50 AUD($15 USD) each for us to enter. The site offers a variety of things to see for adults and children. Our highlights include touring the lighthouse and the telegraph station. The telegraph station is restored and inside included stories, artifacts and exhibits on how the telegraph station worked. The lighthouse was built in 1848, in response to the overwhelming amount of shipwrecks that occurred in the region.
Triplet Falls – We did the hour hike here to see the views and wildlife. We had really hoped to see a platypus, but we did not get lucky. The falls were beautiful as well as the plants and trees.
The Twelve Apostles National Park – The national park has several stops, including the famous Twelve Apostles. These are limestone rock formations, originally 12, now 8. Due to ocean currents, wind, and rain – the formations are constantly changing. We also went to the Gibson Steps, the Arch, London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge and the Grotto. It was here that we saw a beautiful Echidna and a Wallaby.